Search and rescue: EU states are demanding ships assist in rescues, then refusing permission to disembark


Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders explain the case of SeaWatch 4, which was recently left at sea for 11 days with 353 rescued people on board, until it was finally allowed to disembark in Palermo. MSF explain the dirty tricks being played by EU member states that are putting people's lives at risk.

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"This is the result of deliberate policies to not save lives. In recent months, despite receiving distress calls from rubber boats in their own search and rescue regions, Malta and Italy have been ignoring calls, and delaying rescues, in areas of the Mediterranean sea that fall under their responsibility. But, they are not the only EU states looking the other way.

The failure of states has forced non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to try to fill the gap, setting up search and rescue operations. But, thanks to the impounding of ships and unclear administrative blockages, hardly anyone can be at sea right now.

Currently, only Sea-Watch 4 and the Banksy-funded Louise Michel are the only search and rescue vessels active in the central Mediterranean.


We carried out our first rescue within hours of arriving in international waters, off the coast of Libya on 22 August. This was followed by two more rescues in the following days. Despite repeated requests for a place of safety, we were not offered one.

Unbelievably, states are now instructing commercial and NGO vessels to assist in rescues and then refusing to provide a port of safety. Last weekend, (29-30 August) Malta instructed the Sea-Watch 4 to transfer rescued people from the Louise Michel. The Maltese maritime authorities then proceeded to ignore our calls."

See: Search and rescue: Sea-Watch 4 allocated port of safety 11 days after first rescue (MSF, link)

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